Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Lists and Lists and Lists of Sustainable Sports Stadiums

I was doing some research on an unrelated project and stumbled across the fact there seems to be little content addressing the overall state of enviromental sustainability in sports stadiums. Definitely there were a lot of lists. But no one seems to have taken the time to draw any conclusions about the field. 

Stadium architecture is interesting for a couple of reasons: They are often high-profile and have big budgets; there are a couple of challenges enforced by the high occupancy load that can affect the form of the building. Industrial scale HVAC systems and the necessity of strong exit patterns etc. limit design options in certain ways and aren't a lot of fun to deal with. That said, stadiums like Texas' AT&T Stadium do take advantage of the freedom to explore radical design options. In the picture accompanying this post notice the HUGE depressed arches which at once are structural solution and architectural feature.

Texas AT&T Stadium. 

Not to diminish HKS Architects and Walter P Moore Engineers accomplishment we probably shouldn't leave the topic without noting that despite many sustainability measures being implemented across the site, Texas AT&T Stadium and others like it still use the same amount of electricity as a small city. Recycling programs; solid waste reduction; natural light. Across the sector sport stadiums have barely made a dent in electricity consumption. Some of this is reasonable given that a large stadium can be compared to condensing a small city into one place. However, efficiencies should arise due to the increased density and yet these savings don't seem to be realizable in the current state-of-the-art stadium architecture.  

Shrinking in scale somewhat, I think recreation centres offer a much more interesting design challenge. Here one is faced with the true integration of multiple functions (how to get squash players to play nicely with badminton players) and here some of the limitations of occupancy load and HVAC systems discussed earlier can be treated more flexibly. A recreation center which continues to set an example for the sector is the Auburn University's Recreation and Wellness Center in Alabama. HOK did an excellent job creating some really interesting interior spaces and as a runner I thought it was a nice touch to include a 1/3-mile figure-8 running track. (The cherry on top would have been if one of these awesome augmented reality climbing walls had been included!) I wish the project had tried to pushed past LEED Silver but we'll take what we can get. I also have some questions about the exterior styling but this might be a factor of not having a more detailed sense of its surroundings.  

Auburn University's Recreation and Wellness Center

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Applications of Floor-to-Ceiling Windows In Sustainable Architecture

I've been caught in a dilemma for the last couple of years. Being proficient in REVIT allows many to create dramatic glass facades with ease. And there are real-world examples where this is nearly executed as such by curtain wall suppliers through BIM. In any case, the imaginative possibilities of bold forms containing light-filled interiors is attractive to many. That said, unfortunately from a sustainability standpoint this type of building enclosure is flawed. In northern latitudes this proposal becomes very energy inefficient. I've enjoy reading the work architect and writer Lloyd Alter of Toronto who constantly pokes the industry to action on this point. 

No one wants to compromise on design. How can one balance the desire for lots of natural light and beautiful views with some sort of moral conscience that architecture needs to do its part reducing North America's carbon footprint? There are a couple technological solutions, one of which is triple-glazing. Certainly triple-glazed curtain wall systems exist but it's hard to find any really innovative examples of their use. Certainly if one is sticking to orthogonal surfaces it might be possible to be satisfied with this state of affairs. But in reality it would seem designers think of radical approaches all the time and satisfying these demands might require every panel in a window system have a slightly different shape. Building information modelling on many levels can reduce the effort needed to track such a design program. However, adding another pane of glass can only increase complexity during the manufacturing process so as one can see we are left with a bit of a dilemma. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Burn it all down! Build Sustainable Post-Modern Architecture

I guess it might come as good news to some net-zero homes can now be designed and built to look exactly like normal suburban homes. And while that might be worth a bit of celebration what we aim for at The Perfect Architecture Company is to encourage design which pushes far past the average. Having only a blog at my disposal to encourage demand that means we highlight:

In the 21st century there is no better bearer of environmental excellent than the California Academy of Science Museum in San Francisco (completed in 2008). The whole building gives the impression they are trying to say, the future has arrived – and were not going backwards. Renzo Piano can be credited with again applying his genius to create a stunning form and wonderful interior spaces. What I really like about this building is that many of its sustainability technologies were transformed into architectural features.
  • Living Roof
  • Natural Light
  • Automated Ventilation
  • Renewable Energy Use
  • Energy Efficient Building Design
  • Sustainable Materials
Execute that list well and you might get double LEED too. They even managed to work in some of the old exterior facade as an architectural feature inside! Overall the design really speaks volumes about Renzo Piano's studio's skill and creativity. Arup is here again, putting another excellent accomplishment on their resume. As for Stantec, they were somehow involved but it will be hard to celebrate their participation because unfortunately I could not easily find further details about their involvement. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Build The World! 2016 Structural Engineering Awards

The Institution of Structural Engineers did such a good job last year curating a list of interesting and inspiring architectural projects that when the 2016 winners were recently announced I again wanted to take some time to highlight some of the winners. More buildings were included in the formal list than can be included in this post but one of my long-held curiosities in the field is how to make structural engineering more sustainable in the sense the field is transitioning into a low-carbon economy in regards to its main construction materials. Be that as it may, their choice for accomplishment in sustainability was London's 5 Broadgate which while having some strong points might not have fully addressed the environment aesthetically – my apologies if a deeper description of this has to wait for a future blog because of this blog's policy to only speak positivity of architecture and the building endeavour. Therefore we should be thankful for BuroHappold's effort to drastically reduce and quantify this building's carbon footprint. Arup was again recognized along side BuroHappold for taking on daring engineering challenges in 2016. I also discovered a great little practice Pell Frischmann (which is really not so little and based in London) who was recognized for their effort toward educational architecture with their completion of The Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford. 

Lastly we touch on the double award winning Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre of Surrey, B.C., which was recognized for achievement in Community or Residential Structures and Supreme Engineering Excellence. There's lots to like about this building but I'll only point out my favourite little detail: The roof of this building is amazing! Hats off to HCMA Architecture + Design who specified these wonderful wooden beams with the curvature derived from the catenary function to give the structure this wonderfully light appearance. The roof line is so thin and just sort of floats draped there. Really really cool. The project included Fast & Epp of Vancouver as the structural consultants. Hopefully they're taking a much deserved break after their win to fortify themselves against the many many building projects waiting to be challenged. 

Monday, November 07, 2016

Discrete Brick-by-Brick Architectural 3D Printing Technology

It's interesting how quickly architectural 3D printing is advancing. Take, for instance, my previous post about an Australian brick laying robot compared to the recently revealed Archi-Union of Shanghai's additive construction technology (via dezeen.com). The earlier example looks quite primitive compared to the artistry and grace of the Chinese model. A couple of things to point out: Firstly, the surface which was to be faced with brick is quite unorthodox and a challenge to attempt by hand. I immediately recognized the surface as being computationally derived though by which method I can not tell. I would of course be attracted to defining such a surface with differential equations but for all I can tell maybe the studio just played around with symmetrical NURBS curves. In any case, the end result is certainly more visually stimulating than a plain flat brick wall. This brings us to our second point: completing such a complex surface in brick by hand to the tolerances needed to express the pattern is the main benefit offered by architectural 3D printing in these situations. The subtle gradations required to express the pattern work against the traditional tolerances allowed for when laying brick by hand. Without precision the pattern becomes murky.

Another point which readers might doubt is whether this technology really deserves to be called 3D printing or not. Sometimes we view 3D printing as strictly an extrusion process. I'm comfortable shifting the whole topic to additive construction if that reduces anyone's consternation. I much rather design and build with this technology than fight about its label. In so many ways, but especially when designing, this technology and 3D extrusion are similar in how the design is computationally derived and how tolerances are moved into the software domain. That's why I feel it's worthy of inclusion under the title or architectural 3D printing. Here one can imagine the bricks are just larger discrete elements instead of the fine particulate matter normally associated with 3D printing.